Audi of America is scrambling to find a suitable assembly site to retrofit about 6,200 TT Coupes with an electronic stability system.
The installation of advanced braking is too complex to be done at the Audi dealerships, said Len Hunt, vice president of Audi of America.
Audi of America said it would follow the lead of its parent company, Audi AG, which announced Feb. 4 in Munich that it would install the improvements to quell mounting concerns about the car's stability at high speeds.
Audi AG has denied that the car is unsafe but is offering the retrofits anyway. The device evaluates wheel speed, possible fishtailing and other information and automatically brakes each wheel accordingly.
Five people have died in TT crashes in Germany since October. Audi AG said it is investigating about 55 crashes, all of which occurred in Germany. The five fatalities reportedly occurred at speeds exceeding 110 mph.
Hunt said U.S. customers should get the same opportunity to install the electronic stability system as owners in Germany.
NO REPORTED U.S. INCIDENTS
So far, though, TT Coupe owners in the United States and Canada have been quiet.
'We've had remarkably little reaction,' Hunt said. 'We had no reported incidents, which is the major thing. We're obviously monitoring that quite closely.'
The use of an electronic stability program, or ESP, definitely has lower awareness in the United States than in Germany and Europe, Hunt said.
In Germany, particularly, awareness is high, and the customers were requesting it, he said.
Audi of America will begin installing electronic stability systems late this year, Hunt said. TT Coupe owners in the United States and Canada will be notified by mail when the plans are developed, Hunt said.
Audi of America has sold about 6,200 TT Coupes in the United States and Canada since the stylish sports car went on sale in the United States in May 1998. The TT Roadster, unveiled last month during the Los Angeles auto show, is expected to go on sale in May in the United States.
In Germany, Audi will begin retrofitting TT Coupes and TT Roadsters in March, in an assembly hall converted for this purpose at Audi's Ingolstadt manufacturing complex.
Customers have demanded the retrofits in letters to the company, said Franz-Josef Paefgen, Audi AG chairman, during the Feb. 4 press conference.
Audi AG has commissioned TUV Sueddeutschland Holding AG to conduct a 'technical investigation' of the TT's handling. The TT was compared with 12 competing sports cars, Hunt said.
In a preliminary report, TUV Sueddeutschland stated that the TT Coupe and TT Roadster are better than average sports cars and that no design faults, material defects, component fractures or assembly faults have been detected, Hunt said.
'So we said, `Even though you can prove that it's technically not a problem, let's make the car handle differently at these extreme speeds,' ' Hunt said.
Customers must pay 650 deutsche marks, or about $328, for the retrofit, in Germany.
Audi of America, however, does not yet know how much it will charge for the retrofit.
When the 2001 TT Coupes and TT Roadsters arrive, they will be equipped with the electronic stability system, Hunt said.